Editor’s Note: Agnes Herman is a retired social worker in California. Her late husband, Rabbi Erwin Herman, was director of regions for the Union for Reform Judaism. She graciously contributed this commentary from her own blog, Seamless Aging.
Mindfulness, we know, helps us concentrate on the present, its roots are in Buddhism. My new favorite magazine, The Sun, discusses “lovingkindness”, it also has roots in Buddhism. Lovingkindness enables us to move on to be warm hearted, generous, accepting, giving, caring. I cannot imagine anything better than to focus on the moment with a warm hearted caring spirit. Only then do we dare relate to the other in the room, to become involved without barriers of suspicion, anger or guilt.
Warm-hearted brings love. Love is a healing force that not only opens us to the good and the bad, it teaches us to focus on the positive so we can handle the bad things that happen to good people! “Love you” has become a spontaneous attachment to our conversations. It is important to understand there is more to “love” than romantic, physical, sexual love. This younger generation seems to understand that more than we did, it uses the word “love” with far greater comfort and spontaneity than we ever did. Sure we loved our parents, love was on automatic in most families so much so that many forgot to say, “I love you.”
Verbalizing was difficult, we seldom spoke of “loving” someone unless it was a new crush or our best girlfriend.. Today we get off the telephone after having spoken to a friend and frequently say, “ I feel so much better, she is so good to talk to. I love her”? It should not be an issue that we really love those friends who listen with understanding. I recently startled a close friend when I rang off with “I love you!” We had had a wonderful visit on the phone. My generation is still “touchy” about using “love” in general conversation. Have you ever been stiff-armed when trying to give one of us a hug?
Today we understand it is appropriate to have strong feelings defined as love for other than a spouse. The feelings we share with a spouse are special, exciting, sexual, and yes, frequently monogamous. In my marriage those feelings were unique, they were ours alone to share with each other. That did not exclude the love we felt for our parents, our siblings, our children, our friends, doctors, teachers. It also did not exclude the work we love, the reading we adore, the sunset and the special places we love. Love is a many faceted emotion. Every day provides an opportunity to share positive moments, moments of love with other people and with things that please us. When we offer lovingkindness we are offering the very essence of love, the unselfish giving part of us. Love can banish fear, anger and guilt; without those negatives we become healthier and happier.
Try a little lovingkindness, it’s good for you! They knew this back in Buddha’s time, when did we become so ignorant and puritan about love?